10 June 2010
OPINION: It's astounding. His time is fleeting..and to Rocky Horror Show author Richard O'Brien it seems madness has taken hold - if only of the New Zealand Immigration Department.
The renowned British-born author must have felt like he was in his own B-movie spoof recently when he discovered he did not meet the criteria to spend his golden years in retirement on his Katikati lifestyle property in the country in which he largely grew up.
This was despite his contribution to popular culture being immortalised in a statue of his on-stage alter-ego Riff Raff being erected in Hamilton on the spot where he once delivered conservative short back and sides haircuts while dreaming up the risque musical that made him famous.
No wonder he was scratching his head at not qualifying for permanent residency or citizenship. "I don't understand," he lamented.
"They build a statue of me and celebrate me as a New Zealander, but I have to go on my knees and do all sorts of things, and I'm probably too old." It's not as if Mr O'Brien's roots in this country run shallow.
He came here from Britain as a 10-year-old and spent his teens and early 20s in the Waikato and Tauranga.
Despite heading to the bright lights of London in 1964 to seek fame and fortune Mr O'Brien has been a regular visitor back to these shores and has two siblings based in Tauranga and his parents saw out their days there.
No doubt Mr O'Brien is wishing he could do the timewarp back to before he reached 55 – the cut-off point for permanent residency status.
He has no-one but himself to blame for his failure to check the rules.But even if he had it's no guarantee that he would be welcomed by the Government like a lost tourist to a Transylvanian castle on a rainy night.
Immigration policy requires immigrants to be either extremely wealthy or have the offer of a permanent job to live here – something that those in the arts are often not so strong on.
In March Immigration Minister Jonathon Coleman announced a plan for high rolling retirees to live in New Zealand, under which those over 65 would be let in if they had good health and full health insurance to pay for when age catches up, plus the small matter of $750,000 to invest, $500,000 in assets and an income of at least $60,000.
We don't know how much cash Mr O'Brien will have to splash about on his Katikati lifestyle block but it seems unusual that those with no link to the country can buy their way in while those with solid links who have stamped New Zealand's name on the world stage have less right to reside.
First though, Mr O'Brien must apply – something Prime Minister John Key pointed out he had not yet done.
It might take a jump to the left by the Minister to deliver residency but, Dammit Janet, or in this case Jonathon, it's surely worth it.